On the path to climate clarity

22 June 2018
New software could provide city leaders and policy-makers with the tools to finance more climate actions. The first step is a report from Ramboll and C40.

Martin Christiansen

Martin Christiansen

Head of communication, Management Consulting
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Peter Andreas Norn

Senior Market Manager
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Learn more about the Urban Climate Impacts Framework

Download the framework here

Dive in to the report describing and measuring the wider impacts of urban climate action

Get your copy of the framework here

By Martin Christiansen

What if city officials could go online, browse through the interconnected pathways and see how one climate action might have positive spillover effects in other parts of the city, and – equally importantly – click to learn how other cities have tackled similar challenges?

This was the ambition that led C40 Cities and Ramboll to develop a new pathway framework for describing and measuring the wider impacts of urban climate action. The demanding offline inventory has already been taken and made available in report format. Now, all of this data is to be digitised to produce an online tool that helps cities make the case for climate action. A prototype tool is currently in  the pipeline. 

Reaching the Paris Agreement

According to Tom Bailey, Head of Research at C40, the absence of such a tool has made it hard for cities to establish a convincing business case for funding climate actions:

- Various methods already exist on the topic, but we know from previous research and workshops with city officials that our member cities lack a comprehensive and robust evidence base to drive their climate actions. And, so far, the evidence has not been in the form needed by leaders and policy-makers. We aim to change this with our report and online tool, as this is vital to reaching the world’s climate goals, e.g., in the Paris Agreement, Tom Bailey says.

The lack of evidence and support available to cities on how climate change relates to health and prosperity must be addressed. This complexity makes taking decisive action very challenging when it comes to understanding the interconnections between urban agendas, and then to comparing and prioritising them, says Jesper Nygård, Managing Director of the Realdania foundation:

- It’s key to have a thorough mapping of how an action in one area affects other areas – positively or negatively. Mostly positive, I would say. Providing solid data is almost a meta theme; we have to move from thinking to knowing. Or as Michael Bloomberg puts it: In God we trust, everyone else bring data.

Gaining support for action

This instinctual prioritisation of other agendas over climate can mean city stakeholders are not open to considering or supporting climate action, and can pose a major challenge in cities in the developing world, where other urban challenges are particularly prevalent. This tendency exists despite the reality that the human and economic costs of more frequent and severe weather like hurricanes and other consequences of global warming can be tremendous. According to Karin Attström, one of Ramboll’s experts on Social & Economic Impact assessments, even in cases where climate action is generally accepted as a priority, the problem is two-fold. Cities, city officials and their staff often lack the locally specific tools and evidence needed, first, to design action plans that maximise these benefits and are equitable, and, second, to persuade all stakeholders of these benefits.

- For instance, a city may be considering a congestion charge, recognising that it can be an effective climate action while also delivering other significant benefits such as productivity improvements from reduced congestion or increased citizen health as a result of better air quality. However, without evidence of how significant these impacts are likely to be for a given city, that city cannot make a firm case for, or might even encounter opposition to the action, Attström explains.

A full systems approach

The expert group behind the report and online prototype encourage stakeholders to approach urban climate action from a systemic perspective. Urban life is highly interconnected, as the environment, society and the economy all impact each other in a series of complex dynamics.

People’s health and prosperity are intimately dependent on environmental management and biodiversity. The safety and fairness of jobs enhance physical and mental health. A city’s aesthetic quality and cultural heritage drive tourism, migration and, therefore, economic prosperity. Improved equality is directly related to trust, civic participation, social cohesion and sustainability. 

This intuitively makes sense, yet is very hard to practise, according to Karina Solsø, an organisational psychologist with a PhD in Complexity Management from the University of Hertfordshire, London:

- Most of the people who rise through the management hierarchies learn that in order to be trusted with responsibility, they need to meet their targets on time. This often leads to a form of thinking and practice that focuses on targets that can be reached without dependency on more stakeholders than absolutely necessary. Managers need to take the fact seriously that without consistent reflection on the game that everyone is caught up in, they run a great risk of consistently facing suboptimisation. Training and tools that reveal how one thing is connected to another will surely provide one solution to a complex dilemma, she says.

About C40

C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. C40 supports cities in collaborating effectively, sharing knowledge and driving measurable and sustainable action on climate change.

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